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A’s Mazzaro likely to miss “1 or 2″ starts

So we’ll get our second look at right-hander Clayton Mortensen tonight as he fills in for Vin Mazzaro. Obviously, Mortensen wasn’t the most heralded of the three players the A’s obtained for Matt Holliday (Brett Wallace holds that distinction). But Mortensen can help himself with a solid outing because it looks like Mazzaro, suffering from shoulder tendinitis, could miss two starts. So pitching well tonight could earn Mortensen a second start.

According to Mazzaro, his shoulder started bothering him about two starts ago. “I didn’t really recover the way I normally do,” Mazzaro said. “I felt a little soreness. … I’ll get a few days off and bounce back. I’ll probably miss one or two starts. I’ll start throwing in five or six days. I’d like to get two or three more (starts before the season ends).”

He said his shoulder feels better today, but this is all new territory for him. He’s never had any shoulder or arm problems before, so he doesn’t know how to gauge the severity of an injury based on how it feels.

A’s manager Bob Geren said Mazzaro has to get through a side session with no problems before being considered for his next outing, but he added that there’s no thought (yet) to shutting the rookie down for the season.

Mortensen gave up eight runs in four innings in his A’s debut on Aug. 8 in Kansas City, and he was sent back to the minors immediately after that. Geren said Mortensen has terrific natural movement on his pitches, and that his key is just staying around the plate and letting that movement work for him (sounds similar to Trevor Cahill).

Two faces in tonight’s lineup that you haven’t seen for a while: Bobby Crosby playing first base and Nomar Garciaparra at DH. Geren wanted to get as many righties as possible in the lineup, as Mariners left-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith is very tough on lefties. With Adam Kennedy showing some recent life at the plate (three straight multi-hit games), Geren wanted to keep him out there at third. But that guy is gonna need a rest one of these days, I’d say. …

Tonight’s lineups, featuring Mike Sweeney as a late replacement for Ken Griffey Jr. as Seattle’s DH …
A’s
Kennedy 3B
Davis CF
Suzuki C
Hairston LF
Nomar DH
Ellis 2B
Crosby 1B
Sweeney RF
Pennington SS

Mortensen RHP

Mariners
Ichiro RF
Gutierrez CF
Lopez 2B
Sweeney DH
Beltre 3B
Hall LF
Carp 1B
Johjima C
Wilson SS

Rowland-Smith LHP

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Rajai returns to center field for A’s

Another pretty pleasant night at Safeco Field leading up to Game 2 of this series …

The A’s are likely to have a special guest in the dugout for the second straight night — third baseman Eric Chavez, who’s on the mend from June 23 back surgery that he hopes will have him ready for the start of the 2010 season. Chavez’s wife, Alex, is from the Seattle area. He wasn’t in the clubhouse during the media access period earlier this afternoon, and though he was in the dugout for last night’s game, he wasn’t around the clubhouse afterward. I haven’t talked to him personally, but manager Bob Geren said Chavez looked good, was in good spirits and is eyeing a return to baseball activity in January, if not sooner. Next season will be the last of his six-year, $66 million deal.

No news was good news for the A’s on the Rajai Davis front. He’s back in center field tonight and hitting second, so apparently he’ll be able to play despite a fracture in the tip of his right thumb. Davis was able to swing the bat yesterday — the issue was throwing. But his thumb passed the throwing test this afternoon. “I was able to throw effectively and pretty accurate, compared to yesterday,” Davis said. He’s never hurt his thumb before, but in Triple-A he did have an injury to his right middle finger that kept him out a couple of weeks. I’d expect him to get an occasional day off to make sure he completely heals.

The upshot of it all: No transaction made by the A’s, and no extra position player brought up. So Geren still has just three non-pitchers on his bench.

Dallas Braden isn’t with the team in Seattle as he stayed back in Stockton to get physical therapy on his infected left ankle. But Geren said there’s a chance he might join the team in Anaheim for the upcoming four-game series there.

Without further delay, your lineups. With lefty Brett Anderson pitching, Ken Griffey Jr. is not in Seattle’s lineup tonight, but Mike Sweeney is …

A’s
Kennedy 3B
Davis CF
Suzuki C
Hairston LF
Cust DH
Nomar 1B
Ellis 2B
Sweeney RF
Pennington SS

Anderson LHP

M’s

Gutierrez CF
Hannahan 3B
Lopez 2B
Sweeney DH
Hall RF
Branyan 1B
Johjima C
Wilson SS
Saunders LF

Rowland-Smith LHP

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Pregame happenings from A’s home opener

We’re a little more than an hour away from first pitch here at Oakland Coliseum between the A’s and Mariners. Seattle’s clubhouse now provides a mini-A’s reunion of sorts. There’s manager Don Wakamatsu, of course, a Hayward native who was A’s bench coach last season (you can read a little about him in tomorrow’s A’s notebook). Ty Van Burkleo, last year’s A’s hitting coach, is now Wakamatsu’s bench coach.

And don’t forget about Mike Sweeney, one of the most upbeat players in the game who’s now spreading his cheer to the Mariners. After he was released by the A’s last September, he faced the possibility of retirement because of two bad knees. But Sweeney said he avoided micro-fracture surgery on both knees thanks to a series of shots in each knee. He was injected with Synvisc, a gel-like medication often used in knee injuries. The shots last about 8 months. “Basically it’s like WD-40 for your knee,” he said. He’s starting at DH tonight for Seattle.

The 2008 season was Sweeney’s only one w/the A’s, and injuries to his knees ate into his playing time greatly. He was a non-roster invitee to Mariners camp this spring, and played his way into a job, just as he did last year w/the A’s.

“I was very thankful for my time in Oakland,” Sweeney said. “Despite the injuries, I feel I had an impact on the team. I miss a lot of those guys. When I got released, I thought maybe that was it. To be playing again is a blessing.”

–One of the Mariners players tried on an Oakland Police Department hat before they took batting practice. It’s my understanding that players on both teams will wear the hats for pregame introductions as part of the ceremony honoring the four recently slain Oakland police officers. It should be pretty moving …

The A’s lineup:

Sweeney CF; Cabrera SS; Giambi DH; Holliday LF; Chavez 3B; Garciaparra 1B; Cust RF; Suzuki C; Ellis 2B; Anderson P

The Mariners lineup:

Endy Chavez LF; Franklin Gutierrez CF; Mike Sweeney DH; Adrian Beltre 3B; Ken Griffey RF; Jose Lopez 2B; Russell Branyan 1B; Kenji Johjima C; Yuniesky Betancourt SS; Ryan Rowland-Smith P

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Mr. Positive

How many of you believe in the notion that positive energy attracts positive energy? Just askin’ this morning, because I had a brief encounter with Mike Sweeney before the game, and if anybody has positive energy to give, it’s him.

Sweeney befriended me in spring training during an interview I did with him to talk about his background. We finished the interview, and then we talked for another 20 minutes about my pending divorce, the spiritual journey that the event has engendered in my life and the inherent challenges awaiting. I left the interview thinking that this was one of the great people I’d ever met in my life.

Now, I’m asking for some positive energy to go his way. Sweeney likely won’t play again this season because of knee problems, and it’s a distinct possibility that he’ll never again be healthy enough to be an effective major league player. I walked up to him before BP today and told him I was sorry to hear that news, and, in typical Sweeney fashion, he said, “Thanks. Things could be a lot worse, though.” Indeed, they could, and that’s a little reminder I keep saying to myself during this own tumultuous time in my life.

Anyway, then he walked over to the dugout, spotted a woman with two very young girls (say around 8 years old) at her side. First, Sweeney said hello. Then he told the girls that they were beautiful. And then he went into the dugout, grabbed two baseballs and gave them to the two kids. Brought a smile to my face and took me from a glum place to a peaceful one.

The man is a special one. Keep your good thoughts coming his way.

 

 

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Play Ball

The saying around baseball is that you don’t fall in love with a guy in the spring or during the last month of the season. Therefore, the A’s say they’re keeping their expectations for Daric Barton in check.

But the lineup that manager Bob Geren posted before their first Cactus League game against Milwaukee today gives you a hint as to what they really think. Barton is hitting third, and while it is just spring training, the opening games usually reveal a hint as to what the ideal lineup would look like.

For the record, here is the starting nine for the Cactus opener.

RF Travis Buck

2B Mark Ellis

1B Daric Barton

LF Emil Brown

DH Dan Johnson

SS Bobby Crosby

3B Jack Hannahan

CF Chris Denorfia

C Justin Knoedler

RHP Joe Blanton

Couple of thoughts. 1) Don’t worry about Brown hitting cleanup when the season starts; he’s there because Jack Cust got scratched with the flu. 2) Johnson gets the initial call (at DH) over Mike Sweeney.

Manager Bob Geren told the media it shouldn’t read anything into the latter move. The thought is that Johnson and Sweeney will get a boatload of AB’s during the exhbition season, and the fact that Cust originally was down to play left field is indication of that. The A’s, more than likely, will have to make a tough decision regarding one of those two, and the competition starts now.

More updates as the Cactus League opener progresses.